Quarterly Review: 2018 Q2

01 July 2018

Welcome to my second quarterly review. This is where I share what’s going on in my side projects - the things that are working, the things that aren’t, and how I’m feeling about it.

My current side projects are:

  • Clever Builder - articles on programming, specifically around Java

  • Flat Haus - a small home decor website and Instagram account - I’m not doing much with this site at the moment, as I don’t have the time.

Clever Builder

This quarter, I reached 17,200 users on Clever Builder! I’m happy with that.

This is means that the number of users has risen by 29% from the previous quarter.

Clever Builder 2018 Q2 stats

My traffic still comes almost exclusively from organic search - but as I’m growing my email list, email referrals are now starting to show an appearance (although still only 0.3%):

Clever Builder 2018 Q2 referrals

Speaking of email, my email list (hosted with Drip) has grown to 342 subscribers:

Clever Builder 2018 Q2 subscribers

Drip tells me that I have a subscription rate (conversion of visitors to subscribers) that hovers between 1.5-2%.

This quarter, I wrote quite a few articles!

Plus I started a new section on the site called “notes”. This is for shorter how-to articles, that I write when I’ve figured out how to do something, or solve a problem. I write them in case other people find the solution useful. Here are a couple of notes posts:

I also started experimenting with YouTube. A lot of people learn through videos, so I published a couple of short, snappy screencasts. These are easy to make and quite a lot of fun!

But the biggest news is that I started writing a book.

At the start of the quarter, I spruced up my existing Introduction to Apache Camel guide, and put up a landing page for a forthcoming book on Apache Camel for beginners.

Camel Step-by-Step initial landing page

I’ve opened up pre-orders for the book, and I updated my welcome email campaign in Drip, to add a couple of links to the new book. I’ve also sent out a free chapter to existing subscribers.

To my absolute joy, I’ve had 9 sales of the book this quarter. That may not sound like a lot, but for someone who’s never launched a product before, it’s been fantastic!

Gumroad state 2018 Q2

So let’s have a look at the numbers for Q2:

  • Google Analytics users: 17,200

  • Subscription rate: 1.9%

  • Email subscribers: 342

  • Sales: 9 ✨✨✨

  • Conversion rate (a crude measure, calculated using sales ÷ email subscribers): 2%

  • Revenue: $171

Analysis and thoughts

On writing

Writing a book is really hard! It’s a huge project, and it’s kind of difficult to know where to start with a table of contents.

I threw up an outline table of contents on the landing page, based on what I think newbie Camel developers want to learn.

Setting aside time to write the book is also really hard. I’m a bit of a reluctant writer, and I find it difficult to get into the “zone” of writing. Although once I’m in the zone, it’s easier to bash out a chapter.

I think creating a commitment to write a set number of words a day, like Nathan Barry, might be something worth doing.

Technical writing can also be difficult, because you’ve got to set up code samples first (and make sure they work!) before incorporating them into the book manuscript. And then you’ve got to write the explanatory text - explaining technical concepts takes quite a bit of thought!

I’m using Asciidoctor for my publishing workflow and it’s going great. I’m hoping to write an article on my process at some point.

On selling

9 sales may not sound like a lot, but for someone who’s never launched a product before, it’s been fantastic.

I don’t find it easy to write sales copy, and I’ve not pushed the book very much. My email subscribers have received a little encouragement to pre-order with an email or two, but that’s about it.

I plan to finish the book and then have a slightly bigger launch.

But I’m still a bit nervous about releasing a product into the wild - will people like it? This is something I’m really not sure of.

Reading list

Things I read and listened to this quarter included:


I’ve created a growth plan for Clever Builder for the next year. My plans are to significantly grow my audience through writing more content about things other than Apache Camel.

I think my plans might be a tad ambitious 🤔 I’m aiming for an aggressive 20% month-on-month growth in pageviews:

Site growth plan

These are just some initial figures, to help me focus my efforts.

At the moment I feel like I’m spinning the wheels trying lots of different things (tactics), but without a clear direction (strategy).

I also feel that I don’t have enough data to know what’s popular and what’s not.

Only time will tell whether these goals are achievable!

Thanks for reading my quarterly review! I hope you found it interesting. If you have any comments, or if you’d like to know more, let me know in the comments below.